Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Here are just a few thoughts which I shared over breakfast last week: on the fruit of the Spirit, and how to grow it at work.

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…
this is the work of the Spirit and not of human origin (John Owen, Puritan writer). We can’t manufacture them, but we are responsible for acts of obedience by which this fruit is ‘preserved, increased, strengthened and improved’ (John Owen, in ‘The Fruitful Life by Jerry Bridges, p9)

Jonathan Edwards said ‘Love is no ingredient in a merely speculative fiath, but it is the life and soul of a practical faith.’
In a nutshell, for obedience to happen we need to begin to take on God’s character, be devoted to God and be humble.

‘our devotion to God is validated by our love for other people’ (Bridges, p61) Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Love is not so much a character trait as the inner disposition of the soul…which results in action. Love inclines us and directs us to be kind, to forgive, to give of ourselves to one another. I Peter 4:8 says:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

You could paraphrase the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13 (Love is patient, love is kind…) as:
I am patient with you because I love you and want to forgive you.
I am kind to you because I love you and want to help you
I do not envy your possessions or your gifts because I love you and want you to have the best
I do not boast about my attainments because I love you and want to hear about yours
I am not proud because I love you and want to esteem you before myself
I am not rude because I love you and care about your feelings.
I am not self-seeking because I love you and want to meet your needs
I am not easily angered by you because I love you and want to overlook your offenses
I do not keep a record of your wrongs because I love you and ‘love covers over a multitude of sins’ (Bridges, p62)

YES, BUT HOW? It’s not easy.
What are we told in:
John 3:16 This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son and in the Message: This is how we've come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God's love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.

We should give, even at great cost to ourselves. Some key thoughts:
• Love is longing. We need to want to love – and, when it is difficult, we can only do that through prayer and the Spirit.
• Love is a choice. Make a decision to love, even when – especially when – we don’t feel like it.
• Love is action. Acting ‘as if’ we really loved the person. Feelings WILL follow – in the end!
• Love thinks of the other person – when I am able to stop myself from doing something unloving, it is by prayer and thinking ‘how would I feel if someone did that to me?’
• Love is patient. The fruit of acting ‘in the Spirit’ – because it’s not our natural character - takes a while to come.
• Love is a fruit of our obedience.

I then read this devotion: Friendly Not Feisty – Proverbs 31 Ministries: 6 Oct 2010, by Karen Ehman which began with:
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." I Peter 4:8-9 (NIV)
This quote resonated with me: Why is it so easy to snap at our kids, give our husbands the cold shoulder, or roll our eyes at a dear family member, but remain gracious with those we meet in public, even when they do something that really grinds us?
And I realised that this can also be true of us when we are at work, with familiar colleagues or people we don't want to impress, or folk we just plainly don't respect enough or take for granted.  When we are so task-oriented that we lose sight of relationships. We lose sight of Jesus, who IS love.

So yes, be loving. As Karen said: Perhaps it is time to offer some friendly hospitality to the members of our own home; to keep our tempers in check and our grumbling at bay; to let perfect love wash over a multitude of sins....

May we choose to hesitate before we hurl. Be friendly, not feisty. Be love.

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